New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, according to a government report on Thursday that still pointed at gradual labor market recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 410,000, the Labor Department said, partially reversing the prior week's hefty decline.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 400,000. The previous week's figure was revised slightly up to 385,000, from the previously reported 383,000.

The claims data covers the survey period for part of the government's employment report for February. But the correlation between claims and nonfarm payrolls has weakened somewhat. Claims have been hovering above the 400,000 mark, a sustained breach of which is regarded by economists as signaling strong jobs growth.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data, adding that two states had been estimated.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims -- a better measure of underlying trends - rose 1,750 to 417,750 last week.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid edged up 1,000 to 3.91 million in the week ended February 5.

Economists had expected so-called continuing claims to rise to 3.90 million from a previously reported 3.89 million.

The number of people on emergency unemployment benefits dropped 127,386 to 3.63 million in the week ended January 29, the latest week for which data is available. A total of 9.25 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.